The majestic Pacific coast near the old-world village of San Simeon in the northern part of California Highway One Discovery Route is crowned with an architectural jewel – the iconic Hearst Castle National and California Historical Landmark.
Imagined by the legendary newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst as his “ranch at San Simeon,” and built by a notorious female San Francisco architect Julia Morgan in the course of many years between 1919 and 1947, the grand estate remains unfinished, yet magnificently beautiful, adorned with countless pieces of art brought from Europe and Asia, and open to the public on a variety of themed tours.
I pick a tour called “Upstairs Suites,” because Mr. Hearst’s office is a part of it, and I’m very curious to see it.A huge shuttle bus takes me and other visitors from the parking lot, and soon we listen to the audio narrative while ascending a steep hill which Mr. Hearst called, “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill).
At the very top of the hill there’s a palm grove surrounding the two “bell towers” (after the cathedral in Rhonda, Spain) of the Mediterranean Revival estate filled with art and antiques, and kept in pristine condition.
Besides the stunningly designed and opulently decorated work office of the publishing magnate, the upstairs facilities of “Casa Grande” contain guest bedrooms with their original furnishings, and sometimes a period dress and a string of pearls thrown across a bed, with a pair of gold or silver shoes underneath the bed for an added effect.
The Hearst Castle skilled tour guides never fail to encourage their listeners to imagine themselves as the guests of the house, invited for a night of partying with Hollywood movie stars and other celebrities.
Every tour includes a visit to the indoor pool sparkling with 24K gold tiles, giving the guides an opportunity to quip that if usually “not all that glitters is gold” here it is!
After the tour, I walk the grounds of the enchanted hill, discovering hidden gems of garden plants and sculptures on every step of the way.Back downhill, at the ticket office facility, there’s a daily all-day showing of a documentary, “Building the Dream,” and a small museum with a comprehensive collection of historical photographs and an exhibition of materials used to build the Castle, where visitors are allowed to touch them.
Tours at Hearst Castle usually sold out fast, so it’s advisable to order them in advance. More information at: www.hearstcastle.org.
10 unique destinations of California Highway One Discovery Route – San Simeon, Ragged Point, Cambria, Cayucos, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Avila Beach & Valley, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Oceano and Nipomo – described here: www.highway1discoveryroute.com.
For more information see Cayucos Visitor Guide http://www.winecoastcountry.com/cayucos-visitor-guide/.To learn about historical and cultural attractions along California Highway One Discovery Route, visit: http://www.winecoastcountry.com/history-culture-tour/.